Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

What next? Future predictions for the next 40 years.

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I have a hobby which those of you who read my post Future gazing with Wired magazine in November 2008 will be aware of; I enjoy recording predictions that people make and returning to them on the date for which the prediction is made to see if the prediction came true. For example in the afore-mentioned article I noted a prediction that said on 24th November 2020 polar bears and bees will be extinct; I have set myself a reminder for that date to check whether or not the prediction came true. At the moment its a rather one-sided hobby because as yet we have not reached any of the dates for the predictions that I’ve recorded but trust me, in about 10 years there’s going to be a lot to talk about 🙂

The inaugural edition of Wired UK magazine in May 2009 contained an article called “What next?” which was awash with future predictions and I’ve had a great time recording them in my calendar so that I can revisit them in the future. Here is the list of predictions that I have recorded:

  • 2010: Citywide free wifi. And not just supplied by the local authority. “A crowdsourced wi-fi network would be created if everyone turned off the encryption on their home wi-fi” – Saul Parker, anthropologist.
  • 2014: Life-browsing. “As more of our digital lives go digital, we may use a program to sort our data. And it could hook up to software that understands the things people forget.” Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research.
  • 2015: Intelligent advertising posters. Advertising gets personal. Posters that adjust to your presence and address you personally become as common as TV ads tailored to your profile.
  • 2017: Windows power. Environmentally sustainable buildings aren’t just carbon neutral, they will also make a clean contribution to the power grid in the form of solar-power-generating windows.
  • 2017: Intelligent packaging. Using smart RFID chips, the food packages in your cupboard will talk to each other, then suggest what you can make if you combine them.
  • 2018: Teledildonics: Remote control sexual stimulation. “There are Japanese scientists who are focusing ultrasound into a pinpoint, creating sound that you can touch in the air.” – Violet Blue, sex columnist.
  • 2018: Active contact lenses. These will project words and images into the ye. We will also be able to download software to influence our dreams and share them with others.
  • 2018: Meal replacement patches. A patch will deliver all the nutrients you need without you having to open your mouth.
  • 2018: Non-touch computer interfaces. Operate a computer without touching anything, using gestures instead.. “Still ten tears away partly because of the need for accurate tracking.” – Vint Cerf, Google.
  • 2018: Nanotech drugs. Treatments will deliver themselves directly to the site of the problem.
  • 2018: Everything online: There are sensors throughout your home and all your appliances share a network. Your house automates itself, runs more efficiently and reduces its carbon footprint.
  • 2018: Office video walls. Networked offices will take video conferencing to the next level. This could develop into “holographic projections” by 2030. Jeremy Gutsche – trend hunter.
  • 2019: Folk-art revival. “Media production tools will be in the hands of the people, and the line between pro and amateur media is blurred”. – Douglas Ruchkoff, professor of media culture, New York University.
  • 2019: Electro-sex. From the orgasmatron to the robotic sex dolls, this will manifest itself into one form or another by 2030.
  • 2020: Death of web 2.0. Amateur hour ends. “Everyone accepts they need a mechanic to fix their car, but everyone also thinks they can be a journalist. They can’t, its about expertise.” – Anne Skare Nielson, futurist.
  • 2020: A machine passes the Turing test. A computer develops conversational skills indistinguishable from those of a human being.
  • 2020: Space currency floated. A space currency has been designed, but “it does not appear to have legal tender status anywhere” – Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at LSE.
  • 2020: Universal cloud computing. After software makes the leap from desktop to thin air, storage goes the same way. Data is accessible all the time, everywhere.
  • 2021: Emotionally aware machines. Cars will read drivers’ moods and adjust their driving accordingly and computers will be able to tell you if you are too busy to be pestered with an email alert.
  • 2021: Global warming conflict. Floods in Bangladesh will lead to mass emigration, and drought in South East Asia will cause battles for water.
  • 2021: Male birth control. A pill or an injection, this would provide reversible birth control for men.
  • 2021: Affordable genetic prophecy at birth. Everyone’s genome is assayed. Gene-specific medicine will improve the world’s health – or just make huge swathes of unhealthy people uninsurable.
  • 2021: Remote-controlled surgery commonplace. The patient is on an operating table in the UK while a surgeon in the US performs the surgery down a fibre optic cable. Lag time could be a problem, especially on injured astronauts.
  • 2023: Electronic telepathy. Controlling a machine with our minds will enable us to type and send messages using thought.
  • 2023: Fully immersive virtual reality. Active contact lenses provide the visuals while haptics, the science of touch, adds the feel. This could also involve “some kind of hallucinogenic drug” – Richard Watson.
  • 2023: Live to over 100 with ease. New discoveries in healthcare, especially in nanotechnology, will slow ageing and beat common killers such as heart disease.
  • 2024: Woolly mammoths in the zoo. Advances in genetics will enable us to reconstruct mammoth DNA and bring them back from extinction. Modern vegetation is close enough to their original diet.
  • 2024: Microboal diesel provides most of our fuel. Forget “drill baby drill” – the next oil barons will be sitting in labs, cultivating bacteria.
  • 2024: AIDS vaccine. Breakthroughs in anti-viral medicine make a working vaccine widespread.
  • 2025: Personalised nutrition. Although a possibility, “the real idea (after an analysis of someone’s genes) is to have diets for each person” – Sara Risch, Food Consultant.
  • 2026: A moon settlement. We will reach the moon again around 2020 and “begin the build-up of an outpost, probably in the 2022/2024 timeframe”. This will be operational a decade later.” – Carl Walz, Astronaut.
  • 2026: Vertical city farms. With limited space and increasing food shortages, skyscraping greenhouses will make up a growing proportion of the world’s agriculture.
  • 2026: End of school as we know it. “The biggest change is the elimination of existing schools. Those countries that don’t invent better forms of education will be left behind.” Alvin Toffer, futuroligist.
  • 2028: First child disqualifies for academic doping. “There are going to be a lot more brain-enhancing drugs. it won’t be enough any more for kids to be just naturally intelligent.” – Lisa Bodell.
  • 2028: Global mobile phone penetration explodes. Eighty to ninety percent of the world will have mobiles. “Censorship becomes difficult and the ability to operate in secret, whether you’re a local council or a superpower, is lost”. Josh Calder.
  • 2029: Lab grown meat in fast food restaurants. Although technologically this could be developed sooner, psychological hurdles push it later in the timeframe.
  • 2029: Tissue re-engineering. Advances in stem cell technology will allow us to replace body parts as they wear out.
  • 2030: The panda improves its sex life. “With advances in genetics we could say ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the panda had a better sex life?’ and find the genome so that it could have one” – Ian Pearson.
  • 2030: Artificial eyes. “Damage to the retina affects millions of people.  I hope we will be able to rebuild retinas well before 2030 using adult stem cells.” – Patrick Dixon.
  • 2030: Child born outside the world’s gravitational field. Space tourism makes this possible but “If you were a pregnant woman, would you want to risk prosecution for child endangerment?” – Charlie Stross
  • 2032: Cancer no longer a problem. Target drug delivery and other advances in nanotechnology will turn cancer from mass killer into a manageable irritation.
  • 2032: New York sinks. “{There are people] who work on boats…people who really strongly believe that the earth will be, you know, submerged.” – Faith Popcorn.
  • 2035: China goes global. As China dominates the world economy, its worldview will change the global culture.
  • 2035: Humans visit Mars. Its not the technology but the money that’s holding us back.
  • 2035: Self-driving vehicles. Using GPS, lane-changing technology and AI, the cars of tomorrow make take drivers automatically to their destination.
  • 2036: Cheat death the cold way. Freezing a human body after death, to be reanimated at a later date, is not in our timeframe – although a form of suspended animation is more likely.
  • 2038: meet ET. Statistically improbable, but there’s a slightly better chance that we will receive signals from an alien species.
  • 2038: Invisible eyesores. We will clean up the visual environment by “forcing light to travel around an object, effectively making it disappear.” – Richard Watson.
  • 2043: The end of gender. Gender will define our character less and less and “children will no longer be taught gender” by the culture – Douglas Ruchkoff.
  • 2045: Super-intelligence. Machines will build other machines. The challenge will be to avoid human beings being rendered subservient.
  • 2048: Space elevator. Certainly theoretically possible if nanotechnology can create a material suitable for the cable.

Anyone out there willing to stay with me until 2048 to see how many come true? By then I shall be 71 years young and one of the predictions above gives me confidence that I will still be around to pass judgement. Personally I’m still holding out for a cure for baldness before my locks completely fall out; seriously, has no-one come up with that yet?

Incidentally, for future reference here are the main headlines from today’s BBC News:

Cameron says MPs must say sorry David Cameron says MPs must say sorry over expenses claims, as his own party’s claims come under the spotlight.

‘Steep rise’ in Sri Lanka deaths An official in northern Sri Lanka says 378 people have been killed in 24 hours, but the government denies shelling the area.

Seven further UK swine flu cases

King ‘regrets’ nightclub incident

Obama jokes about his next 100 days at White House dinner

Tevez inspires Man Utd derby win

Button wins Spanish GP

Lions show their bite Passions run high as Millwall take a slender play-off lead against Leeds at the New Den



Written by Jamiet

May 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm

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  1. Great stuff. What a time to be alive. Hopefully the singularity will occur in my lifetime.


    May 15, 2009 at 4:19 am

  2. […] to predict what would happen in the world over the next 40 years. I authored a blog post entitled What next? Future predictions for the next 40 years where I summarised all of those predictions and made a promise to review those predictions every […]

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